The warmer temps are here, and it’s the perfect time for camping, cookouts, and of course, relaxing near or on the water. We’re all about soaking up the sun and getting our feet wet, so to kick off the outdoor season, we compiled 6 water activities in national parks for your next vacation.
Yosemite National Park; Rafting
Beat the heat and float along the Merced River in California’s Yosemite National Park. Renting a raft is a popular activity in the summertime—rafts are put in by Curry Village and taken out near the Sentinel Beach Picnic Area. While floating down the river, be sure to enjoy the spectacular valley scenery from this unique viewpoint. Please note that all persons must wear a personal flotation device (PFD) when the gage height at Pohono Bridge is above 4 feet at 8 a.m. When the river is 4 feet or lower, each person must have a PFD available, with children ages 13 or under wearing one at all times. Check the website for more information on reserving a raft here.
Big Bend National Park; Canoeing
The possibilities to explore Big Bend National Park by water are endless with options like half-day floats or multi-day camping excursions (a backcountry permit is required for day and overnight trips). In the more remote regions of the park, there may be stretches where you won’t encounter another boat for days. While admiring the breathtaking river views, be on the lookout for turtles, great birdwatching opportunities, and beavers along impressive mesas, mountains, and buttes. Please note that the middle of the deepest channel of the river is the international boundary; docking on the Mexican bank of the river is considered an illegal crossing unless there is an imminent need to land, such as a boat capsizing, utilizing shade when overheating, or scouting rapids.
Everglades National Park; Airboat Tour
Known as the "River of Grass," the best views of the Everglades are reached by getting up close and personal. An airboat tour is the best way to immerse yourself in this vibrant ecosystem without putting on waders. Along the way, you'll learn about the region's history and see unique birds, alligators, turtles, and more that call this place home. There are three authorized airboat businesses that offer tours inside the park, all of which are found on US Highway 41 between Miami and Shark Valley.
Hot Springs National Park; Thermal Bath
Relax and unwind in the soothing, warm waters at the Hot Springs National Park bathhouses. While no outdoor soak options are available, the park has 2 bathhouses to choose from, the Buckstaff and the Quapaw - where water from the thermal springs is piped directly into these bathhouses, allowing visitors to soak in the enriched waters. Looking for a traditional experience? Visit the Buckstaff, which has been in continuous operation since 1912. Traveling with the family? The Quapaw operates as a family-oriented spa. Each spa offers public and private baths in the thermal waters, along with facials and massages. After your soak, check out the 26 miles of trails within Hot Springs National Park or experience shopping at the boutiques along Central Avenue.
Biscayne National Park; Snorkeling
With Biscayne National Park being roughly 5% land, the best way to experience it is in the water! Biscayne has 4 distinct ecosystems to explore: Mangrove forest, the Biscayne Bay, the northernmost portion of the Florida Keys, and the northernmost portion of the third largest coral reef in the world. While visiting, you’ll be able to snorkel reefs, shipwrecks, and mangrove fringes, in addition to sailing, kiteboarding, and wildlife watching along the way. Trips can range from half to full days, and there are several outfitters that operate within the park.
New River Gorge National Park; Whitewater Rafting
Looking for some whitewater action? New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia boasts some of the best whitewater rafting on the east coast! Before you go, consider if you’d like to go on your own or with an organized group (there are several outfitters offering tours ranging from the afternoon to overnight trips). The New River has 2 distinct sections, the Upper or Southern portion of the river—which offers relatively easy rapids up to Class III, and the Lower Gorge or Northern portion—home to Class III to Class V rapids. It’s important to know your limit and comfort level prior to your trip. For more information on whitewater rafting in the park, click here.